Ricky Stenhouse Jr. was quick to answer Thursday when asked if impatience has kicked in regarding Roush Fenway Racing continually working to turn the performance corner.
“Oh, I’ve been over it,” Stenhouse said.
Although he won two races in 2017 and made the playoffs for the first time, the narrative around a company once considered a powerhouse has been one of regrouping. Stenhouse was 18th in points last season with just five top-10 finishes. Meanwhile, the organization’s second car (Roush downsized to two after the departure of Greg Biffle after 2016), was split between Matt Kenseth and Trevor Bayne to earn a combine two top-10 finishes.
“You’ll always want it to be quicker,” Stenhouse continued. “There’s times that we’ve had really, really good runs and there’s times that we’ve had quite the opposite, and I think that’s the frustrating part. When you go to one racetrack, and you’re really good, and then you go back to another racetrack, and you can’t seem to find that same speed. I think we’re getting better at that, for sure. You always want it to be overnight, but when all the other cars and teams are trying to do the same thing and continue their path of progression, it makes that task difficult.
“I know it’s tough, but it’s nice to have runs like Kansas and being able to pass for the lead under green and not just restart up there and take the lead. That gave everybody at our place a little bit of confidence that we’ve got a car that’s capable of doing that, we just got to put all the parts and pieces together to do that every week. Another thing that I took from that weekend, we were not very good on Friday, and we changed everything in the car and … made it fast. That gave me a little more confidence that we are building the right things; we just got to make sure we put it all together every weekend.”
Stenhouse faded to an 11th-place finish at Kansas after having an average running position of sixth throughout the night. And he did indeed drive himself into the race lead for a total of 11 laps He’s also led laps at Talladega, Fontana, Las Vegas, Atlanta, and Daytona for an overall tally of 50 on the season.
After 12 races, Stenhouse has an average finish of 18.6. His season best-finish was sixth in Las Vegas, which is also his only top 10 so far this year.
Over the past few seasons there is no denying anything and everything that could be changed has been at Roush. Personnel, drivers, and even the areas in which the work is being done.
“Our guys at Roush Fenway work so hard, and at some points you’re like, man, are we working on the right things because it’s not for the lack of effort,” Stenhouse said. “That was one thing I wanted to know: Hey, what are we working on? So, we have a whole section of our meetings that are letting us drivers know exactly what they’re working on and I think that’s been really beneficial to let us talk about the importance of some of those things, and just also to know, hey, we’re working on it.
“I do think that we have a lot more speed in our cars this year than what we’ve had, and that’s kind of the frustration part. Those days we don’t have the speed or weekends we don’t have the speed, it’s frustrating when you don’t have it. We just got to get more consistent because we have speed in our cars and we haven’t had speed on the mile-and-a-halfs in a long time, and this year those are by far our better racetracks. That’s been neat to see.
“We’ve had some issues – heck I ran into the back of the 18 [Kyle Busch] on Lap 2 at Bristol and I felt like that was the best car we had at Bristol in practice, and so I ruined that for us. Then you get caught in a wreck at Talladega. Then we blew a right front at Dover. It was just kind of three weeks in a row that were pretty demoralizing. We bounced back at Kansas and kind of stepped on our feet at the All-Star Race, but so far this weekend I think we’ve brought a better car than what we’ve had (last weekend).”